First, I should like to avail of this opportunity to wish the new Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Aylward, every success in his appointment. His tenure may be short but I wish him every success. This is not only a local issue but a national issue which has grave consequences for the future of primary education in this country. I have made contact with educationalists on the policy being adopted at present by the Department of Education regarding repeat of sixth class standard in primary schools. I have been informed that when a pupil is enrolled at the start of the academic year, he or she is validly enrolled for the entire year.
Drumshanbo national school has been written to by the Department of Education and the board of management in Drumshanbo have been informed there are pupils in the school system who are not validly enrolled. I understand from the INTO that this is in breach of the agreement which the Department of Education have with the INTO. If that excuse is to be used by the Department of Education I should like to have it clarified now.
I have been reliably informed that parents have a constitutional right to send their child to any school they wish until they are 15 years of age. The policy adopted by the Department of Education is in breach of people's constitutional rights. According to information made available to me that will have serious consequences for the Department of Education. Will the Minister clarify the matter.
I have been approached by a number of schools in my constituency concerning this anomaly in the educational system, Scoil Ursula, Sligo; St. Edward's School, Sligo and Drumshanbo national school, County Leitrim.
Many pupils have repeated sixth class since the mid-seventies in Drumshanbo national school. The Department of Education have stated that the school will lose a teacher because the second sixth class is not taken into consideration. I am not raising this issue on the grounds of the reduction in the number of teachers at the school but because of the right of children, in the education system, to a decent primary education which would enable them to obtain employment in Ireland.
It is ironic that over the past number of years there have been immense job losses in Drumshanbo. If the Government are not prepared to give the young people of Drumshanbo a proper education, instead of the penny-pinching policy being adopted, the consequences for people everywhere will be disastrous. I urge the Minister to clarify the matter as quickly as possible because the Department of Education are in breach of an agreement with the INTO and going against the constitutional rights of parents. The people of Drumshanbo have had the right to take on a second sixth class, called 6B, and that should continue.